Spotlight on Serenity Farm in Cohutta, Georgia
Cora, Kim and Pam Bailey of Serenity Farm in Cohutta, Ga. make up a mother-daughter egg farm that has won awards for their exceptional performance, their high hatch rate and their nurturing way with the hens.
"They do it all and it's hard work," says Lyle Richey, breeder field representative for the Ellijay, Georgia Complex. "They get the houses ready and it's always set up well. Their performance has always been good. They take a lot of pride in what they're doing. They pay special attention to their hens, and to me, that is why they do so well."
Deep Family Roots
Kim and Pam are the third generation to farm this patch of Georgia land. The Bailey family has owned their 80-acre farm, Bailey Farm, since 1936. Cora's parents farmed cotton on it and built two broiler chicken houses on the property in the late '40s. Cora and her husband, Dean Bailey, bought the farm from her parents in the early 1960's.
Cora Bailey's children grew up on the farm, raising chickens and producing eggs their whole lives. The farm also has 75 head of beef cattle and produces hay. The three women all live on the farm, though Kim Bailey lives in a separate home. Brother, Brian Bailey, went out on his own, running a farm with six broiler poultry houses a few miles down the road. He lives there with his wife, also named Kim Bailey, and three children Rebecca, Brittany and Justin.
In 1979, the Baileys built their first hen, or egg laying house, and followed it with another in 1985. These two houses are still in operation, though they do have to go in and gather the eggs from the nests by hand. Cora Bailey's grandson, Justin, now operates the old hen houses for the sisters, becoming the fourth generation of Baileys to work this farm. Dean Bailey passed away in 1989, leaving Cora and her children fully responsible for the farm.
"We have an old buggy on wheels that you push through the old hen houses, carrying flats which you put the eggs in. You walk through and pick up your eggs three times a day," says Kim Bailey. "Twice a week Pilgrim's picks them up and they are taken to a hatchery. When they are hatched they are taken to a broiler farm where they are raised for consumer use."
A Modern Family Operation
In 2005, the Bailey sisters built Serenity Farm, which operates separately, though it's on the same land. These two houses are entirely automated. The hens lay eggs in the nest, then the eggs roll out and land gently on a conveyor belt, which bring the eggs right to the egg farmer. They are then loaded on crates for delivery to the hatchery. These eggs are meant to become broiler chickens, grown for consumer use.
On Serenity Farm alone the Bailey's raise 18,000 egg laying hens. On the Bailey's farm they raise an additional 16,000 hens. Each farm gets one flock a year. The hens arrive when they are 21 weeks old and they lay for 40 weeks before the hens are processed for other uses by Pilgrim's. Laying hens require roosters to fertilize the eggs. The Bailey's keep 2,000 roosters at Serenity and 1,500 at Bailey's, which "do most of their mating in the early morning and late afternoon," Kim Bailey notes.
"My mother is the reason we've done so well up here," says Kim Bailey. "She's the reason we have that farm and she's always been really dedicated to it and has driven us kids to do the best that we could do."
The Bailey sisters, Kim and Pam, run and maintain the fully-automated Serenity Farm. Pam is responsible for getting up early in the morning and feeding the chickens. Kim is responsible for keep up the business side of farming. Everyone is tasked with the egg gathering. Though Cora Bailey is said to be "retired" at 79 years old, all note that she is out there with the chickens daily and can usually be found gathering eggs, as she has for most of her life.
"The daughters are hard workers just like Cora. Cora treats those hens just like they're her kids. They are well treated by her, she does a good job with them, and her daughters do too," notes Richey.
The Not-so-Secrets of Success
Kim Bailey credits some of their success to the quality of their hen houses, built by John Ledford, owner and operator of Tri-State Installers. Ledford was on the crew that built their first hen houses in 1979, and again came out in 2005 to build Serenity Farm. Since then, Kim Bailey and John Ledford have partnered in both his chicken house manufacturing business and the Bailey's egg production business, as well as in their personal lives.
"He's been a big part of our success," says Kim Bailey, noting also that working with great Pilgrim's service people like Cory Watson and Lyle Richey has contributed to their positive performance.
Kim Bailey says she loves the independence of farming and also the fact that she gets to work with her family.
"It takes a lot of dedication and you've got to love it," Kim Bailey says. "It's one of those things where we've done it all of our lives and we just love it. Our mother is 79 years old and that's what keeps her going, to get up and go over to the farm and work. We're able, as a family, to work together, we all get along and it's just a good situation for all of us."